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Bemidji City Council: No decision on painting bid for events center

After two failed votes, the Bemidji City Council was unable to decide in a work session Monday what should be done about the painting bid for the Bemidji regional events center.

For the second time in as many weeks, the council delayed a decision on the painting bid, which first was presented for approval March 2.

The painting bid again will be considered during the regular council meeting on Monday.

The lowest painting bid, at $298,000, came from Jari Pederson & Sons Inc. of Grand Forks, N.D. The bid was among six that were received for the work. It also was $122,850 less than the second-lowest bidder, Davis Drywall Inc.

"It's a little scary that they are a lot lower," said Jeff Iisakka, the vice president and director of operations of Kraus-Anderson. Kraus-Anderson is the project manager for the events center.

But, Iisakka explained, Kraus-Anderson has contacted Jari Pederson & Sons and questioned the bid.

The company stands by its bid, Iisakka said.

Jerry Spangler, a retired painting contractor, has questioned the validity of the low painting bid and whether Jari Pederson & Sons will fulfill its contract.

Because the events center project includes state financing, all contractors are required to adhere to prevailing wage standards, which oblige contractors to pay their workers the average regional wage, calculated by county.

Councilor Roger Hellquist said prevailing wage policies are intended to level the playing field.

"I'm surprised there is a $122,000 separation there," Hellquist said of the difference between the low and second-low bid.

Iisakka, who ultimately recommended that the council accept the Jari Pederson & Sons bid, said there are multiple bids for the events center in which the low bid was significantly lower than others.

"Everybody is hungry right now," he said. "They're all looking for work."

The council made two motions in reference to the painting bid. Both failed on 3-3 ties; Mayor Richard Lehmann was absent.

The first motion, by Hellquist, asked that Jari Pederson & Sons send a representative to Monday's regular council meeting to explain its bid and ability to meet the bid. Also, staff would continue to gather research on the work Jari Pederson & Sons has done.

A second motion, made by Councilor Greg Negard, would have approved the bid as presented.

City Manager John Chattin said the bid will be on Monday's agenda for discussion, and Jari Pederson & Sons will be invited to the meeting.